Ivorian artist Laurent Tia descends from a long lineage of sacred art sculptors. Rooted in the tradition of the native Manding people, Tia brings forth the ancestral knowledge of confreries de masques: elite associations of masked dancers that played a religious, recreational, and edifying role in society. Tia was educated at Institut National des Arts, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and currently resides near Avignon, in southern France. His intimate understanding of occidental and African histories and cultures spurred the desire to find harmonious ground between two seemingly discordant worlds.
In L’Union des cultures, for example, Mona Lisa–the epitome of traditional European art–is seen holding a shekere, an African percussion instrument, her Renaissance attire paired with a kaftan and a tribal mask, partially covering her face. Tia’s choice of materials further reflects this underlying tenet: oil paint is complemented by a mix of kaolin, sawdust, and natural pigments, which coupled with dramatic chiaroscuro add a prominent sculptural quality to the work. In so doing, Tia succeeds in accomplishing his unifying mission. By bringing together Western pictorial traditions and Africa’s sculptural heritage, he sets an example of graceful coexistence amongst cultures.